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Monday, 13 February 2017
Page: 727


Mr WILKIE (Denison) (14:23): My question is to the Prime Minister. Prime Minister, your personal commitment to health care is compromised by the freeze on the Medicare rebate for a visit to the GP. Indeed, yours is a regressive policy that burdens the poor, because the freeze is driving down bulk-billing rates. This is just plain dumb, because primary care at seven per cent of the health budget is not the cause of healthcare inflation; it is actually what helps keep people out of expensive hospitals. Tasmania is being slugged especially hard, because bulk-billing was down another two per cent there in the last quarter, even though we are the most disadvantaged and sickest state. Prime Minister, please, will you immediately lift the freeze on the Medicare rebate for a visit to a GP?

Mr TURNBULL (WentworthPrime Minister) (14:24): I thank the honourable member for his question. The government is committed to ensuring that all Australians, all Tasmanians, and all members of the honourable member's electorate in fact have access to high quality health care when they need it, whether it is seeing the GP, getting medications or tests or needing hospital care. My government is delivering record levels of health funding, and this continues to grow every year.

Ms Butler interjecting

The SPEAKER: The member for Griffith is warned!

Mr TURNBULL: As far as the Medicare freeze on the indexation is concerned, we are open to reviewing that indexation pause, which was begun by members opposite when they were in government. The Minister for Health is having productive discussions with the AMA and the colleges as to how that can be achieved. But, clearly, we are managing a very tight budgetary position. We need to ensure that we get as much value from our health dollar—and by 'value' I mean in terms of better outcomes for patients—as we can. In terms of Tasmania, I would say to the honourable member that across Tasmania there have been an extra 1.03 million more GP services billed in the last year compared to 2012-13. In the honourable member's electorate, there have been an extra 76,000 GP bulk-billed services in the last 12 months compared to 2012-13. So, more Tasmanians are seeing a GP, without having to pay for it. Those are the facts.

Mr Wilkie: Mr Speaker, on a point of order, I am concerned that the Prime Minister—

The SPEAKER: He needs to state the point of order.

Mr Wilkie: is misleading the chamber here. Bulk-billing in Tasmania is down, and that is a fact.

The SPEAKER: The member for Denison will resume his seat. That is not a valid point of order.

Mr TURNBULL: The honourable member would be well aware of the importance of providing better and more effective support at the primary healthcare level, the GP level, to people with chronic diseases. Our Health Care Homes trials are a very important part of that, because, as the honourable member knows, doctors will be rewarded for treating a patient in a much more holistic way rather than episodically. It is a very important trial. There are 10 regions where it is being rolled out, and Tasmania is one of them. We are giving Tasmanians the opportunity to participate in that.

Of course, all Australians have access to many medicines at much cheaper prices due to our national reforms to the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme. We have added lifesaving drugs, including for breast cancer and melanoma, which means that Tasmanians and indeed all Australians who need those medications, which could cost $100,000 per treatment, can now access them for only $38.80 for general patients and $6.30 for concessional patients. I assure the honourable member that at every level we are spending more on health care. We are doing everything we can to ensure that all Australians and all the constituents of the honourable member are getting the best health care possible and ensuring that our healthcare dollar goes as far as it can to ensure that they live healthy and active lives.